014: Why Teenage Girls are More Vulnerable Today than Ever Before with Krista DeYoung
Brief summary of show:
In this week’s episode, I chat with Krista DeYoung, who is the founder of Girl Above.
Krista specializes in mentoring adolescent girls and parents, is a certified life coach and is currently in the Masters in Counseling program at CCU.
Since launching Girl Above in 2015, Krista has had the opportunity to speak with thousands of young women about the underlying issues driving their pain and helping them determine tangible ways to grow and heal.
I love this conversation with Krista because we touched on so many points that are so important for parents to understand as we support them through their teenage years.
As a mother of two teenage girls myself, I found it so impactful.
Listen in as we talk about:
The impact of social media on teenage girls
Why our teenagers stop talking to us
The best approach to starting conversations with your teens
How to support them with their permission
Connect with Krista here:
Connect with Natalie Tysdal
Natalie: many people know that I am a mom of three, two girls. One is 20 years old and one is 16. Teenage girls have my heart. For sure. I think it is the most difficult time in life, especially for girls and especially in the environment that we live in right now. So we are going to talk all about teenage girls today and how we can support them and help them through the difficult times that they have.
And joining me is Krista D young founder of girl above. And she's been a long time friend. I love what she does. She has her own podcast and she specializes in issues with teenage girls,
Krista: So good to talk to you today. Thank you so much for having me. This is fantastic to get to talk to you about this
Let's talk first, right off the bat. Why is life so hard for teenagers specifically for girls?
Krista: Oh my goodness. The question. And there's a lot of different ways to answer that. I would say one of the biggest reasons it's so hard [00:01:00] is as adults, our world is just a lot. Bigger. It's more broad. We have friends in different areas. Our friends generally aren't at our house all day long in our business, but for teenagers in their high school or middle school environment, that is their work. Their social environment is their world. Their cell phone is their world and they unfortunately just lack a lot of perspective and hindsight.
So that's one of the reasons it's difficult. But also, this is the age developmentally where their social sphere. Pretty much exclusively impacts their identity. So when you have a little little kid, you can tell your kid all day long. I love you. I love you. And they're like, my mommy loves me, therefore, I'm great. And that kind of fades away as teenagers get older and then their friends determine who they are and how they feel. And it just unfortunately really takes a hit to the self-esteem. If you are a woman listening to this, you know that unfortunately, girls. Are vicious and can be mean. And that's just something that they are stuck navigating around. So those are a few of the reasons it's so hard and they just don't have for the most part and intact. View of who they are and what they stand for and what their values are as a buffer to what they're experiencing at school and online.
Natalie: I should probably take a step back for a moment and, give you a chance to tell people how you got so involved with teenage girls.
Krista: Well, it was not intentional. I can tell you that much. I actually graduated with a degree in secondary education and biology. And my first teaching job ever was teaching eighth grade science. And that was such a wake-up call to me. Because in the midst of wanting to teach these kids science, I was learning. So much about their lives and the hardships that they were facing. And I had, I felt like my office was this revolving door of girls who were suicidal, self-harming eating disorders. We actually had a group of kids commit their lives to Satan. Directly through a blood oath that they found online, it was really bizarre. So it was just obvious that these kids were hurting and I'm like, I wish that I could address that. And then teaching them science just became a lot less important if that makes sense. So at that same time I was coaching dance and it was just a lot of involvement with teenagers and I was made aware for the first time, just how.
[00:03:40] Sad they were, and it really alarmed me and woke me up to the need for some solutions, not only for teenagers, but also for parents.
Natalie: I know all parents out there listening have this deeper concern for our teenagers. Today and being a mom of girls and now an 11 year old boy, I don't necessarily have that same concern for my boy yet. I mean, he's 11. So we'll see when he's a teenager having experienced teenage boys, totally different podcasts, totally different issues. Some of the core issues we'll talk about, but. just find it so different today. And I know that's true, true with social media and the FOMO that kids get, they see what their friends are doing online, where growing up for me, and you're a little younger than me. I didn't know what my friends were doing on the weekend until later that week when it might have come up at school. Cool. But is that, do you think that social media is to blame for all of the issues that our teenage girls have?
Krista: I think it is to blame for the majority of issues that they have. There's always, you know, family dynamics and, Health other issues that contribute, but this social media thing has completely changed the landscape of what it means to be a teenager.
And also what it means to be a parent. Right now, we call it parenting in the digital age, which is this totally foreign. Anyone doing this right now is really being like a pioneer. For what it means to parent right now, but just like you said, they're aware of when they're missing out on things. Social media also acts as kind of this social currency.
So when you're posting something online, you have a visual representation of your value. If you will, in the sense that, you know, if Natalie and I both post something on Instagram and she gets a hundred likes. And I get five likes than she is that much more valuable than I am. That's at least how these teenagers see things.
And they're just so. Afraid because you think you, you're putting your life out there online and people are able to respond to it and give their feedback. And for such a vulnerable age and state of mind, that's just kind of a really scary prospect is so yes. It's changed a lot of things.
Natalie: remember when my now 16 year old wanted an Instagram account and, you know, usually they start asking for that around 12, 11, some younger and some much younger.And I remember saying. Absolutely not no way I'm going to hold this off as long as we can. And you're right. We're pioneers. Like we're trying to figure out, and maybe in 10, 20 years there'll be a guidebook that works, but we're trying to figure out how to allow them to do with their friends are doing and feel associated and, and be able to communicate with their friends by having texts. Cause you don't want them to be the one left out all the time, but while doing that, doing it in a healthy way and yeah. My way of doing that when she turned 12 was we'll create an Instagram account and we'll do it together for a year, but you can't be on it or post on it without me for a year, because I felt like, and boy, I was like, I was the really mean mom then. Cause all the other kids had freedom with it. But I remember I remember doing that with her. Yeah. And feeling like if I just gave her this Instagram account account, I literally felt like I was throwing her into the jungle with a bunch of wild animals and I wasn't there to support her. Like that was my analogy. I'm like, I'm not throwing you out into the jungle and I'm not, not going to be there with you. I'm going to be here with you as this new venture starts.
Krista: Yep. And did you discover that it was as jungley as you thought or was that a good.
Natalie: I expand page, maybe not as much at that age, all of the kids were kind of young, but it certainly, I mean, it was also like what's appropriate to say, and are you, you know, are you, are you wording it the right way?
Are you posting things that are appropriate where, you know, for not guiding them through that? How do they know? Because there, there was a lot, that was an example that they're seeing that I didn't deem as a parent appropriate. So, you know, that's, their guidebook is what they see other people post. And it was also a matter of who you're following.
Who's following you. Like, there's just, there's so much to it. It reminds me though, as, as you talked a moment ago about teenagers in particular, their whole world revolves around what people think of them. And be and who they're becoming and, their image. And I remember very clearly middle school principal of my daughters.
And he explained to us new parents when my first daughter went to middle school, he said, I've been doing this for over 20 years. And I will tell you that middle school years in particular, Kids live with blinders and all those blinders see is what's ahead of them and what people think of them. That's all they see, nothing else matters.
What do people think of me? What am I wearing? What are, and, and I continually go back to that because it's just those years where we have to support them through. What does everybody think of me? How, how are people talking about me? Are they talking behind my back? It's it's really, really
Krista: hard. It is hard for them.
And as adults, we have enough hindsight to look back on things that we struggled through in middle school and high school and say, Hey, I made it out of that alive. And yes, it was hard, but here we are. And I think it's easy for parents to make the mistake of minimizing it. Adolescents are going through because you know that they'll make it through you. Do you know that there'll be okay? You know, that their heart will mend after the breakup or the friendship rift or whatever. But it is important to put yourself back in that state of mind where it's like, this is their world.
Take yourself back to a time when you didn't know if you would survive from a breakup, which is silly to think about now, but like, it felt like you were going to physically. Perish from that breakup and that's, that's where they are. And, and the other [00:10:00] thing, you kind of highlighted this, but. They're walking around with their blinders on.
And not only are they walking around with their blinders on, they feel like they are the sole person on planet earth under the spotlight. Yes. They have the spotlight on them. Nobody else has the spotlight, but them. And so everybody must be looking at their hair, their shoes, their clothes, what they say it, they don't realize that everybody else feels like.
They're being spotlit too, but it is just the strangest phenomenon of like, everybody must be looking at me and thinking about me at all times.
Natalie: So, okay. Just reminding me of something that 11 year old said the other day, and I'm not going to tell this story. Cause I don't know if he'd want me to tell the story.
I didn't have permission, which I'm careful of. But it was something like that. Like, but everybody's watching me and I'm like, no, they're really not. Yes they are. No, they're really not. Like I tried to explain that. So you just reminded me of that. What do we do? Like how do we get around that? Like, let's, let's get into some solutions.
How do we parent these middle schoolers and high schoolers who feel like the world is revolving around them?
Krista: Right. Part of it is just pushing through like maturity. We'll bring this about another thing though. A fun tip that a school psychologist, friend of mine uses on her clients when they walk into her office and do that, you know, everybody's looking at me, she's like, okay, next time you walk into the classroom, I want you to actually look around, look around, is.
Everybody looking at you, do you see their eyeballs on you? And so she had this student do that and the student came back and was like, nobody was looking at me like they would have had to. Yes. Isn't that interesting. Like once they actually stopped to pause and look like, is everybody looking at me? They realized.
They really, they really weren't and that people didn't maybe care as much as they thought, or, yeah. You might have one person comment on your shoes or one person comment on your hair or whatever, but is it really challenging your students to think like, is it really everyone name? The people I think it's the piece of advice would essentially be, have them slow down enough to fully conceptualize, like.
Who is it really? And is it all the time? Is it like, or is it something that you're perceiving and that's really a delicate thing to help your teenager do that without totally like minimizing them. And no people don't care as much as you think, but they really don't. Everybody has their own worries and fears.
Natalie: And we can't dismiss what they say, because then, then they don't trust us. So if you say, oh, nobody really cares, then they're not going to tell us their worry. So it's almost like acknowledging the fear that they have and then talking them through
Krista: it. Exactly. Yep. Repeating that fear back to them, affirming like, wow, that must be really hard if you feel like everybody's looking at you and then helping them walk through that with the goal of being, keeping that door of communication open at all times, the last thing you want is for your teenager to be struggling with something and not talk to you about it.
Right. Because of the issue itself, won't go away now. You just don't know about it, so you can't solve the problem.
Natalie: So, so much of what we're talking about really applies to all kids, boys and girls, middle and high school, but let's bring that back to teenage girls since that's what we said we were going to talk about.
And you just said you don't want them to not talk to you about it. Something happens to teenage girls where they stopped talking. About their issues, maybe it's because they feel like they know it all y'all are, they're afraid, but do you see that, like maybe I find it to be like the sophomore year or when they start driving and they're not with you all the time in the car, or even before that, when they're with you in the car, but they, how was your day fine?
What, anything, you know, like something happens where they stop talking to you about their fears and their concerns and they try to do it all themselves.
Krista: Right. They do. And there's probably many reasons that that happens. One, they're just trying to test out their independence and they're growing into these little mini adults.
And that's hard because you've just had a little kid in your house, you know? So that's a hard transition for parents, but also I think high school is when they start making more. Consequential choices. And so the things that they are doing and thinking and involved with that, they might not want to talk to you about chances are there's some sort of guilty conscience around it, or a feeling of shame or fear or.
like how will my parents see me? If they find out this information? They, if you have a good relationship, chances are they actually value what you think they don't want to get in trouble and they don't want you to see to think less of them. So that could drive a kid really quickly into silence.
And this is where the challenge for parents comes in where. You have to ask yourself, can I handle and stay present with whatever information they tell me, regardless of how much it freaks me out, because that's the real challenge. If your kid is experiencing something that. Is really shameful or scary for them and they don't want to talk to you about it.
You want them to talk to you about it? So there's going to be a few times where they might drop a little crumb here or there, or give you a hint at what might be going on. And if your first reaction is to like freak out or punish them or tell them like, oh my gosh, I can't believe you did that. Then that door is closed.
So keeping your cool is very. Very important. The most important actually I would say it's like number one, parent tip is don't freak out.
Natalie: Absolutely. Like let them drop that crumb and tell yourself no matter what it is, I won't freak out or they'll never share anything again.
Krista: Yeah, you might be totally freaked out internally, but if you can keep your poker face and for that moment in time, stay present with them probe a little bit like, oh, so, you know, what is that like for you?
How are you experiencing that? Can we talk more about this? Those are great little tips of how to get them to talk more. And then if you need to go freak out and go talk to your friends or go see a therapist on, on your own, then that's great. Just keep cool with your kids so that they know my mom or dad can handle my pain without running away.
Natalie: Absolutely. Okay. So you just mentioned getting help yourself. And I went to a workshop that you did, and it was probably four or five years ago. When my oldest was just starting high school, and I remember so much of what you and the others running the workshops said was you can't help your kids if you're not getting the help you need, and you don't even know you need it.
Krista: Yep. The caveat we always give is like, no amount of tips and tricks will work. If you are not in a healthy, mental, emotional, spiritual place to implement those tips without destroying the relationship with your teenager. And so much of that comes from being able to identify where you and as a parent and where your teenager begins.
If you are. Struggling emotionally, or you are really dealing with some like undone things from your own past. It's really hard to go in and objectively keep a cool head [00:18:00] with your teenager. So, yes, that is a big thing that we talked about at those events was like, how do we get parents to recognize where they might need to pump the brakes and get their own support?
Not only so that they can be whole and healthy, but also so that they can help their teenager and model what it looks like to seek support and get the help that you need. Well,
Natalie: I have found that parenting is the hardest job I've ever had much harder than any television job or journalism job or whatever job people parenting is the hardest job, probably because the stakes are higher than anything else.
We want our children to be emotionally, physically sound healthy. All of those things, we want to do it, right. No one wants to screw up parenting, but it's also being so challenging. That that's, you know, at the most challenging times in our lives are where the cracks open up. Right? So if you have a weakness and something's really difficult, it's going to open up wide and that crack is just, it's going to explode.
So parenting often leads us to the help we need, or at least what I'm hearing you say is that it should lead us to get the help that we. Personally need as
Krista: adults. Yes. Yep. One of the visuals we talk about is like, imagine that your teenager is wearing these giant clown shoes and they're just like walking through this mind field unknowingly.
Stepping on all of these things that trigger mom or dad without even realizing it. And they're just have their little clown shoes on and mom or dad might be like, I'm so angry or this really bothered me, or I cannot handle your behavior, but there's a reason that. The parent is feeling so emotionally charged about things.
And those are the times when you want to get help. It might just be that that's a reflection of your own story, or you're really worried about your kid. It can be many, many things, but it's just hard to parent from a place of like rooted grounded piece. If you feel out of control, if that makes sense. So, and kids can pick up on that.
They know when. When a parent is freaking out. So
Natalie: sometimes, and the parent is freaking out is when the kid takes advantage of the situation and goes out and parties for the first time or does something dangerous because they know the parents in their own world. So staying grounded and help.
Krista: And my friend made a great comment.
She has high schoolers and college students, and she's like, no matter how many. Things you learn and know about parenting. Your kids will always surprise you. And I thought that that was a great comment because it's true when things are in your home and they're so. Close to your heart, we lose a little bit of perspective.
And they're just more, they're higher stakes. It's your family. That's right. And so I love that. She said that, and it's just a great reminder to any parent listening. Like. No matter what happens, your kids will always surprise you and it's okay to seek help and seek perspective when you feel like you're stuck within your parenting journey.
Natalie: Yeah. Great advice. Let's talk about. Other things we can do suggestions through the years that have you working with teenagers in your program now, girl, above working with parents, what tangible things have you found helpful for people listening to this podcast who are looking for ways to support their teenagers?
Krista: I think the biggest tool is to get, like, we talked about your own. Mental health support and make sure you have a community that can help you on your parenting journey. Another thing would be, especially if you have young kids, you know, elementary, middle school aged kids is make the conversation of values.
Something that is just an ongoing conversation in your family. Something that makes it very difficult on my end or like on the counseling end of things with teenagers is they come in at 16, 17, 18, and they have no idea what they stand for or why. And unfortunately, those are the things that caused them to be.
Kind of just floating down the river of their life. Cluelessly they fall for peer pressure. They get involved in really bad situations that they wish they didn't, but they don't know why. And they don't know how they got here. And so along the way, these kids end up violating their own personal, moral and ethical code without even knowing that they're doing it.
And so as parents, if you can help your kid. Determine and vocalize what their personal core values are. That is such a tool that will help them navigate many areas of their life.
Natalie: that's pretty big I'm curious, how do you start that conversation? I mean, we hope that we're just at nightly dinner conversations and, you know, whatever your, your faith is that you're going through those things regularly.
[00:23:16] But for a parent who might be listening and thinking, I don't know if I've done that. How do you start that conversation?
Krista:Yeah, and their values will change, you know, in elementary school kids values different than an 18 year old, but I think ways that you can start those conversations are. Not in the moment of heat, not in the moment of, you know, a disagreement or a disciplinary thing, but just your average dinner table conversation of, if you're talking about kindness, are you talking about character?
Just. Challenging your kids like, Hey, what, why did that hurt you? When so-and-so pushed the kid down on the playground? What really was that that bothered you and help them put language around it and then asking them like, okay, so is that something that you value? Yes, I value kindness because, and then if you have little kids, you could even start, you know, making little boards or putting their values on.
On some sort of a visual as you discover them. And then when you notice in their life that that value is challenged, then you can help them see that. So you have your kindness or you have the value of kindness up on your board. You've all determined that that's a value that your child holds. And then you get a call from the principal and learn that they.
I don't know this is extreme, but they punched a kid on the playground. Then now you have a tool to go back and say, okay, you value kindness. How did this violate that value? And if you're having those conversations ongoing, then hopefully they can identify. When circumstances in their life, their actions, the actions of others are actually coming against a value that they hold.
So another one might be sobriety or purity. It might be that they value integrity. So if they have expressed that they value integrity, and you notice that they are. Sneaking around, they're sneaking out of the house. They're doing things that you don't feel are consistent with that value. It opens up a door to have a cool conversation that might go something like this.
You might be able to say, Hey, I noticed that you snuck out last night. I also know that you really value, integrity. And can you tell me like how those two things add up? Because maybe I'm missing something, you know, and it. It opens up the door for your kid to have to do some addition in their own mind that they might not have thought about otherwise.
Does that make
Natalie: sense? Absolutely. And I love it that you just listed some of those things. Cause I was going through like, well of course I want my kids to value, integrity and all of those things, but have we really. Listed those things with our kids, like have we really, we talk about them and they come up and situations come up.
[00:26:11] But to actually say, these are the things I value. And as a family, I hope we all value this. What are yours? What are the things that you value? What are, what are the things you want to be known for and listing them, having them up. On their wall on the back of their door, in your kitchen, on the refrigerator, like, so you can continually reference when someone and you mentioned, and I want to bring this back up.
[00:26:36]The bread crumbs, the crumbs, I think you said, and. That is brilliant. And it's so valuable because sometimes it comes in a form you might not expect where it's not about them, but it's about a friend and they're saying so-and-so lied about. And I have found that so many times with teenagers that they almost drop these little crumbs to see how you'll react to a friend's [00:27:00] behavior.As a way to gauge how you would react if they did that.
Krista: Yes. Yeah. And so super
Natalie: important that we listen and then maybe use those values to say, well, your friend. You know, snuck out or we've used that that example or w decided that they were going to indulge in alcohol in their underage or something like that.
And you say, well, how did you feel about that? And you use your values referencing the friend.
Krista: I think it's brilliant and this seems so simple, but in a lot of ways, it's not because if you have fallen into a pattern in your house where it's. You ask your kid how their day is and they're like, oh, it's fine.
And then you kind of just move on and you find that your conversations are really surface level. Then having these conversations that get them to think those probably aren't conversations that are happening in your house. And so asking your kid, how did you feel about that? What do you think? What, what have you done?
Those are really great ways to make them think about something. A lot of times they just don't have. To think about something. They make decisions without considering consequences. Obviously we all know that that happens. So if they can get used to. Just thinking about what they're thinking about, thinking about why they do what they do, why they think, what they think that's a huge tool that you can use as a parent to just help them mature rather than action reaction, action reaction living.
Cause that's really stressful for a teenager to just. Float along and not really know how to think about things.
Natalie: And often I find that teenagers want to talk to you, but they want to pretend like they don't want to talk to you, you know, closing themselves, closing themselves in their, in their room. After what you know was probably a stressful day with sports practice or school or whatever it might be.
So those forced family dinners or forced outings, or, you know, you think they're forced, but more than anything. They want that relationship, even though they act like they don't don't you agree?
Krista: I absolutely agree. It's not on the outset, you know, cool to talk to mom and they're obsessed with being cool.
So you kind of got to push through that, but at the end of the day, you being involved and fighting for a relationship with them. Regardless of their pushback that shows them that you care and you're invested. And if it's hard to find time in their day, let's say they are a multiple sport athlete, or they're really busy.
It's great to schedule, you know, maybe a twice a month, really intentional coffee date. Like on this day, at this time, we're going to go. To lunch or go to coffee. And I just want to hear what's going on in your life and your goal as a parent, during that session is to listen with everything you have, try to refrain in that moment from, you know, telling them what to do or trying to solve their problems because that's your one sacred hour.
To do all of your FBI work of gathering the information of what's going on in their life. And you want them to talk until they drop in that meeting. And that's a really great tip too, to just set aside intentional time to build relationship.
Natalie: So good. And probably one of the very hardest things is to listen without giving advice and, you know, wait for, or I've started the, would you like some feedback from me?
And they'll say, no, n